This is a guest post by our friends at The California Wine Club. For more than 25 years, they have been traveling the dusty back roads of wine country, seeking out tiny artisan wineries and selecting their best-handcrafted wines to share with wine lovers all across the country. Great wine and beautiful outdoor spaces go hand in hand, whether you are toasting a wedding in a vineyard or toasting the sunset in your own beautiful backyard.
There’s a reason why California wine country is a destination for weddings. Any time of year you’ll be surrounded by stunning views, dramatic colors and enveloped in romance. It is the perfect setting for a wedding.
So, we’re in full support of your decision to have your wedding in wine country and at a winery. To make your perfect day happen for you and your guests, we’ve asked our friends at The California Wine Club what questions you should ask when looking for a winery for your wedding.
Get started by giving some thought as to what you want the setting to look like, the weather, how you want your guests to feel and some rough timelines of when you want everything to start and end.
Factor in some flexibility because when you find your dream wedding winery there may be some compromises you’ll need to make in order for your perfect day come together.
Here are a few questions to ask the wineries on your hunt that will help shape your vision and narrow your choices:
- What is provided by the winery if booked as a wedding venue and will you be the only wedding happening on that day?
Some wineries offer complete A-to-Z packages and have the ability to arrange everything from changing quarters to an off-to-your-honeymoon departure through the vineyards in a horse-drawn carriage. Other wineries only provide the setting and it’s up to you to provide the details from setup to breakdown.
If it’s a large winery, your wedding may not be the only one on that day. Check to see if there is available staff to handle both parties and what times other events are happening.
Find out if any additional insurance must be secured to host an event on property and if there are restrictions on vendor selection. Sometimes wineries require you use their caterer or they have a preferred list of vendors (which can be quite helpful).
If you’re dream is for an outdoor wedding, find out what alternatives there are if rain or wind become a factor on the big day, and what other areas on the property will be available should the location change from outdoors to in. And, when will they notify you of the change.
- Are there any noise restrictions at the winery if you are having an outdoor event?
Some wineries have restrictions on noise based on where they are located and what is surrounding them. This could mean no noise after 7p or after 10p – it’s best to find out if you have your heart set on an all-night outdoor wedding with a large guest list.
- What will the vineyard look like during the time of the wedding and will you be allowed to walk out in the vineyard for photographs?
If you’re new to wine country, then you may not be aware of how dramatically the seasons change. Winter is cold with rich hues of gray, while in spring the grounds are covered with wildflowers plus sunny skies and afternoon breezes. The vineyards themselves also change dramatically throughout the year. If you want that lush green leaf on the vine in the background of your photographs know that you probably won’t get that in March but you will in May. Check with the winery on permissions for taking photographs in their vineyards or neighboring vineyards.
- What accommodations are there for parking, transportation and facilities?
Many small wineries and vineyards have dusty roads and are not paved. This is part of the charm of having your wedding at a winery. However, this may mean that there are some restrictions on transportation where you’ll need to shuttle in guests or that limited parking is available. Also, make sure to get a good feel for how many restrooms are on the premises and which you and your guests will have access too.
- Are children and minors allowed?
If you’re planning on having little feet at your event, this is a big one to get the scoop on. The winery will most likely have a pre-established set of rules for children attending events. These rules will most likely pertain to children’s safety and winery liability.
- Are alcoholic beverages allowed on the property? If so, what are the limitations?
You’re having your wedding at a winery; of course alcohol is permitted, right? Well, the winery may only have a beer and wine license and not a full liquor license.
If this is the case then check to see if any discounts are available for purchasing your wedding wine from the winery, if they will store it for you until the big day and if there are additional discounts for a family event/wine tastings in advance of the wedding?
Consider purchasing wine for your wedding from The California Wine Club, their relationship with small wineries allows you to benefit from deep discounts on small handcrafted wines.
Remember to have fun, follow your heart and don’t stress. The details will all fall into place, well, because they just have to. Congratulations and happy winery wedding hunting!
Tip: Before you make your list of wineries and jump on a plane to go see them, consider seeking some advice from The California Wine Club. Their wine club members benefit from wine country tour planning and discounts on tastings – their expertise can save you both time and money.